Electric cars are becoming more common as new and compelling models come to market. They are much more efficient than gas-powered cars, they don’t produce any tailpipe emissions, and they deliver instant torque and eager acceleration.
Arguably the best part about owning an electric vehicle (EV) is not having to pump gas. You can simply charge your car at home overnight while you’re sleeping. However, there are many important details related to home charging that many prospective EV owners may not know or understand.
To help you make a confident buying decision, we provide answers to the most essential questions about charging your EV at home.
Can I Plug My EV Into a Standard Wall Outlet?
Yes, your EV should come standard with a 120-volt charging cable, which is officially called Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). One end of the cable fits into your car’s charging port, and the other end plugs into a typical grounded plug like most other electronic items in your home.
If your car doesn’t come with a charging cable or you need a longer cord, you can purchase one. However, they’re not cheap, and the longer the cable, the more it will cost you. Plan on budgeting around $200 if your EV doesn’t come with a charging cable. It’s important to note that you can’t plug an EV charging cable into an extension cord unless you buy an extension cord that’s specifically designed for that purpose.
Charging your car via a regular 120-volt outlet is referred to as Level 1 charging. It takes a long time to charge this way, but it may work for you if you don’t travel very far and you can charge every night while sleeping.
With Level 1 charging, you can expect to add about 3 to 4 miles of range per hour in ideal conditions. So, if you own a Chevrolet Volt, which is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with 53 miles of electric range, you could charge it to full in as little as 13 hours. However, a Tesla Model 3 Long Range would take several days to fully charge to its 330-mile range.
Can I Upgrade My Home for Faster Charging?
Most EV owners have a Level 2 charger (EVSE) installed in their homes. In some cases, this can be a relatively simple process if your home electric service and your current electrical box can accept a 240-volt outlet. However, in some cases, a more substantial upgrade is required.
A 240-volt outlet and a Level 2 charger will assure your electric car charges much faster. For example, the Chevrolet Volt can charge in as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes. You can add up to 44 miles of range per hour to a Tesla Model 3 using a Level 2 charger.
How Do I Get a Level 2 Charger Installed?
You can call an electrician and tell them you’re interested in having a 240-volt charger installed for your electric car. However, it may make more sense to have a 240-volt outlet installed. It’s a cheaper option, and you can purchase the 240-volt charger of your choice and plug it in. Some units require mounting, which is also something you can probably do yourself.
Keep in mind the cost of installing a 240-volt outlet varies widely. It depends on how far your garage is from your house’s main electrical service, if any upgrading is necessary, and whether the contractor needs to do any extra work to make the connection. It’s always smart to do your homework and get a few estimates before moving forward. You can expect the installation to cost as little as $300, though it can easily cost as much as $1,000 or more in some cases.
There are many options when it comes to buying an EVSE. Some are portable units that you can store right in your trunk. They don’t look much different than an extension cord with a box at one end, and they don’t even need to be mounted. Others are full-scale charging stations with digital displays, Wi-Fi capability, and mobile app support. These can be either plugged in or hardwired.
A quick Google search proves there are many places to buy an EVSE. You can even get one at Lowes, Home Depot, or Amazon. The most important part here is to do some research and make sure you’re getting a unit from a reputable brand, and it’s appropriately certified. Many automotive manufacturers and dealerships can provide recommendations.
Where Should I Have My Charger Installed?
Before you have your 240-volt outlet or EVSE installed, make sure you determine where it should be located. The best spot is usually inside of a garage. How do you park your car when you get home in the evening? Do you park the same way every night? If you’re buying an EVSE to plug into the outlet, make sure its cord is long enough to reach your car.
If you have plans to buy a second EV, will the cord reach to another adjacent spot? The location of an electric car’s charging port varies by model, so be sure to take that into account if you’re having the installation performed before taking ownership of your car.
If you don’t have a garage, you’ll have to consider the best outdoor spot to have your charger installed. Make sure the wires can be run safely and it has the appropriate weather protection as specified by the manufacturer. Some units are designed to deal with the elements more than others.
When Should I Charge My EV?
Sometimes you won’t be able to choose a specific time to charge your EV. If you’re out of juice and you need to use it, you’ll have to charge it. Since charging takes time, you’ll always have to plan ahead. However, assuming you don’t fully deplete the car’s range, you can choose the best time to charge it each day, or even only on specific days.
Electricity rates vary widely by area, but electricity is usually priced differently at various times of the day. During peak times, it’s more expensive. Peak times are most often on weekdays in the late afternoon and evening. Off-peak times are usually overnight when people are sleeping, as well as early in the morning and on the weekend.
Make sure to find out how your electricity plan works and then charge at the times that will cost you the least. Many EVs allow you to program charging times to take advantage of the best rate. Some utility companies offer special rate plans for EV owners and dedicated smart meters too, so call your local electricity provider to inquire about what’s available in your area.
Should I Invest in Solar to Charge My EV?
Some electric car owners use solar power to charge their cars. Solar is a significant investment that takes a long time to recoup. However, if you own an EV or multiple EVs, it may make sense, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of sunlight year-round.
If you’re interested in solar, get some quotes. There are multiple options for buying and leasing solar systems. Some solar installations include a battery backup system that allows you to store energy that you can use to charge your car during peak times.
More Information on Electric Vehicles
If you’re a prospective EV buyer and are looking for more information, take a look at our articles on how the electric car tax credit works, questions to ask before you buy an electric car, and reasons why people choose not to buy electric cars.